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9 times the world stepped back from the brink of nuclear war

The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August of 1945 marked the end of the World War II, and the beginning of the age of nuclear weapons.

During the Cold War, the policy of mutually assured destruction between the US and the Soviet Union — appropriately referred to as “MAD” — meant that if one nation used nuclear weapons on another, then an equal response would have been doled out as soon as possible.


Over the course of the Cold War, and several times after it, the citizens of the world were forced to hold their breath as the superpowers came close to nuclear war.

Here are nine times the world was at the brink of nuclear war — but pulled back:

1. October 5, 1960 – The moon is mistaken for missiles

October 5, 1960 - The moon is mistaken for missiles


Early warning radar quickly became one of the most important tools in the nuclear age. American radar stations were built all around the world with the hope that they would detect incoming Soviet missiles, warning the homeland of a strike and allowing for the president to form a response.

On October 5, 1960, one such warning was issued from a newly constructed early warning radar station in Thule, Greenland (now called Qaanaaq). Dozens of missiles were reportedly detected, and at one point were said to reach the US in 20 minutes.

A panic ensued at the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) HQ in Colorado, and NORAD was placed on its highest alert level.

The panic was put to rest when it was realized that Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev was visiting New York at the time. A later investigation found that the radar had mistaken the moon rising over Norway as Soviet missiles.

2. November 24, 1961 – A single switch causes a mechanical failure

November 24, 1961 - A single switch causes a mechanical failure


Just over a year later, Strategic Air Command (SAC) HQ in Omaha, Nebraska lost contact with the Thule radar station. SAC officials then tried to contact NORAD HQ in Colorado, but the line was reportedly dead.

It was determined before that the probability that both Thule and NORAD’s communications would shut down due to technical malfunction was very low, making SAC believe that an attack was underway.

SAC’s entire alert force was ordered to prepare for takeoff, but crisis was averted when a US bomber managed to make contact with Thule and confirm no attack was underway.

It was later discovered that a single malfunctioning switch managed to shut down all communications, even emergency hotlines, between SAC, Thule, and NORAD.

3. October 25, 1962 – A bear almost turns the Cuban Missile Crisis hot

October 25, 1962 - A bear almost turns the Cuban Missile Crisis hot


The Cuban Missile Crisis is perhaps the closest the world has ever come to global nuclear war. Four instances over the 13-day event stand out in particular, the first one happening on October 25, 1962.

Tensions were already high during the crisis, and the US military was placed on DEFCON 3, two steps away from nuclear war.

Just after midnight on October 25, a guard at the Duluth Sector Direction Center in Minnesota saw a figure attempting to climb the fence around the facility. The guard, worried that the figure was a Soviet saboteur, shot at the figure and activated the sabotage alarm.

This triggered air raid alarms to go off at all air bases in the area. Pilots at Volk Field in neighboring Wisconsin to panic, since they knew that no tests or practices would happen while the military was on DEFCON 3.

The pilots were ordered to their nuclear armed F-106A interceptors, and were taxiing down the runway when it was determined the alarm was false. They were stopped by a car that had raced to the airfield to tell the pilots to stop.

The intruder turned out to be a bear.

4. October 27, 1962 – A Soviet sub almost launches a nuclear torpedo

October 27, 1962 - A Soviet sub almost launches a nuclear torpedo


Two of the instances actually occurred on the same day — October 27, 1962, arguably the most dangerous day in history.

On the morning of October 27, a U-2F reconnaissance aircraft was shot down by the Soviets while over Cuba, killing its pilot, causing tensions to escalate to their highest point.

Later, a Soviet submarine, the B-59, was detected trying to break the blockade that the US Navy had established around Cuba. The destroyer USS Beale dropped practice depth charges in an attempt to make the submarine surface.

The captain of the B-59, Valentin Savitsky, thought the submarine was under attack and ordered to prepare the submarine’s nuclear torpedo to be launched at the aircraft carrier USS Randolf.

All three senior officers aboard the B-59 had to agree to the launch before it happened. Fortunately, the B-59’s second in command, Vasili Arkhipov, disagreed with his other two counterparts, and convinced the captain to surface and await orders from Moscow.

5. October 27, 1962 – The US Air Force sends out nuclear armed fighters

October 27, 1962 - The US Air Force sends out nuclear armed fighters


On the very same day, US Air Force pilots almost caused WW III to break out over the Bering Sea, the body of water between Alaska and Russia.

A US Air Force U-2 reconnaissance aircraft was en route to the North Pole for an air sampling mission. The spy plan accidentally crossed into Soviet airspace and lost track of its location, spending 90 minutes in the area before turning East to leave.

As it did so, at least six MiG fighter jets were sent to shoot down the U-2 while it was trespassing. Strategic Air Command, worried about the prospect of losing another U-2, sent F-102 Delta Daggers armed with nuclear Falcon air-to-air missiles.

Upon learning of the situation, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara reportedly yelled “this means war with the Soviet Union!” President John F. Kennedy reportedly said that “there’s always some son of a b—- that doesn’t get the word.”

Luckily, the F-102s never encountered the MiGs, and escorted the U-2 back to Alaska.

6. October 28, 1962 – Radar operators get confused over an unknown satellite

9 times the world stepped back from the brink of nuclear war

One day after those events, radar operators in Moorestown, New Jersey reported to NORAD HQ just before 9:00 AM that Soviet nuclear missiles were on their way, and were expected to strike at exactly 9:02 near Tampa, Florida.

All of NORAD was immediately alerted and scrambled to respond, but the time passed without any detonations, causing NORAD to delay any actions.

It was later discovered that the Moorestown radar operators were confused because the facility was running a test tape that simulated a missile launch from Cuba when a satellite unexpectedly appeared over the horizon.

Additional radars were not operating at the time, and the Moorestown operators were not informed that the satelite was inbound because the facility that handled such operations was on other work related to the situation in Cuba.

7. November 9, 1979 – A training drill almost turns real

9 times the world stepped back from the brink of nuclear war
President Jimmy Carter

At 3:00 AM on November 9, 1979, computers at NORAD HQ lit up with warnings that thousands of nuclear missiles had been launched from Soviet submarines and were headed for the US.

SAC was alerted immediately and US missile crews were on the highest alert level possible, and nuclear bombers were preparing for takeoff.

The National Emergency Airborne Command Post, the airplane that is supposed to carry the president during a nuclear attack to ensure his command over the nuclear arsenal even took off, though without President Jimmy Carter on board.

National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski knew that the president’s decision making time was somewhere between three to seven minutes, and so decided to hold off telling Carter in order to be absolutely sure there was a real threat.

Six minutes of extreme worry passed, and satellites confirmed that no attack was taking place. It was later discovered that a technician had accidentally inserted a training tape simulating such a scenario into one of the computers.

Marshall Shulman, then a senior US State Department adviser, reportedly said in a now-declassified letter that was designated Top Secret that “false alerts of this kind are not a rare occurrence. There is a complacency about handling them that disturbs me.”

8. September 26, 1983 – A Soviet colonel makes the biggest gamble in history

9 times the world stepped back from the brink of nuclear war
Stanislav Petrov

Just after midnight on September 26, 1983, Soviet satellite operators at the Serpukhov-15 bunker just south of Moscow got a warning that a US Minuteman nuclear missile had been launched. Later, four more missiles were detected.

Tensions between the US and Soviet Union were strained earlier in the month, when the Soviets shot down Korean Air Lines Flight 007 near Sakhalin Island, killing all 269 people on board — including US Congressman Larry McDonald.

The commanding officer at the bunker, Stanislav Petrov, was to inform his superiors of the launches, so an appropriate response could be made. Soviet policy back then called for an all-out retaliatory strike.

Knowing this, Petrov decided not to inform his superiors. “All I had to do was to reach for the phone; to raise the direct line to our top commanders — but I couldn’t move. I felt like I was sitting on a hot frying pan,” he recalled of the incident.

He reasoned that if the US were to strike the Soviet Union with nuclear weapons, they would send hundreds of missiles, not just five.

But Petrov had no way of knowing if he was right until enough time had passed, by which time nuclear bombs could have hit their targets, arguably making his decision the biggest gamble in human history.

After 23 minutes, Petrov’s theory that it was a false alarm was confirmed. It was later discovered that a Soviet sattelite had mistaken sunlight reflecting off the top of clouds as missiles.

9. January 25, 1995 – Nuclear worries remain after the Soviet Union

9 times the world stepped back from the brink of nuclear war
Boris Yeltsin with Bill Clinton

Four years after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the Russian Federation’s first president, Boris Yeltsin, almost started a nuclear war.

Russian early warning radar detected a launch of a missile with similar characteristics to a submarine-launched Trident missile off the coast of Norway.

The detected missile was actually a Norwegian Black Brant scientific rocket which was on a mission to study the aurora borealis. Norwegian authorities had informed the Kremlin of the launch, but the radar operators were not informed.

Yeltsin was given the Cheget, Russia’s version of the nuclear briefcase (sometimes known as the Football), and the launch codes for Russia’s missile arsenal. Russia’s submarines were also placed on alert.

Fortunately, Yeltsin’s belief that it was a false alarm proved correct, and Russian satellites confirmed that there was no activity from US missile sites.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why the US just built a new missile that doesn’t explode

For almost two decades, drone strikes have been the hassle-free, war crime tolerant way to sever the heads of any kind of terror cells operating against the United States in the war on terror. There’s just one big problem with that: Hellfire missiles make a big boom, and when that boom is misplaced, a lot of people die – innocent people. And that just creates more terrorists. Lockheed-Martin has finally created a weapon designed to minimize civilian casualties while taking out the bad guys with pinpoint accuracy.

Actually, knife-point accuracy.


9 times the world stepped back from the brink of nuclear war

Imagine this hellfire missile, but instead of explosives, it’s filled with pop-out blades.

The Hellfire missile is a staple of drones, helicopters, and fixed-wing aircraft throughout the U.S. military arsenal. The laser-guided, tank-busting workhorse is great for use on a conventional battlefield but not so great when used for surgical strikes.

Until now.

The term “surgical strike” gets a whole new meaning with the Hellfire R9X projectile, which, according to the Wall Street Journal, has no explosives, but rather it drops 100 pounds of metal blades into a target, which includes long blades that deploy from the missile’s body right before impact. The shards hit with such force that they cut through concrete and sheet metal.

9 times the world stepped back from the brink of nuclear war

A U.S. airstrike using a Hellfire RX9 to kill al-Qaeda deputy leader Abu Khayr al-Masri in Syria in 2017. Above is the result of the surgical strike.

(New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness)

Also called “The Flying Ginsu” by the people who developed the missile, they say it’s the equivalent of dropping an anvil on a terrorist’s head, minimizing the damage to people and property in the vicinity of the weapon’s detonation. Since the weapon has no explosive effect, it is also sometimes referred to as “the ninja bomb.”

So far, the weapon has only been deployed around a half-dozen times, in Libya, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Somalia. It was the weapon of choice to kill a number of al-Qaeda operatives, including Jamal al-Badawi, the bomber behind the USS Cole attack in 2000 and it was the back-up plan to kill Osama bin Laden in his Pakistan compound.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Former director of CIA and NSA hospitalized after stroke

Michael Hayden, who previously served as CIA director and National Security Agency director, was hospitalized after suffering a stroke at his home late November 2018.

Hayden, 73, is “receiving expert medical care,” and his family has requested privacy, according to a Nov. 23, 2018 statement from the Michael V. Hayden Center for Intelligence, Policy, and International Security at George Mason University.

“The General and his family greatly appreciate the warm wishes and prayers of his friends, colleagues, and supporters,” the Hayden Center said.


Hayden achieved the rank of a four-star general in the US Air Force and went on to lead the NSA from 1999 to 2005 for Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush; he led the CIA from 2006 to 2009.

National security experts offered their messages of support.

“Michael Hayden is one of this country’s noblest patriots, dedicating his life to America’s national security,” former CIA director John Brennan said on Twitter. “A man of tremendous integrity, intellect, decency, he has been a role model for countless intelligence professionals over several decades. Speedy recovery, Mike.”

“On behalf of the men women of CIA, I want to wish Gen. Hayden a speedy recovery,” CIA director Gina Haspel said in a statement. “Mike’s long career of public service commitment to national security continue to be an inspiration to all intelligence officers. Our thoughts are with Mike, Jeanine, their family.”

Hayden, who regularly appears on CNN as a national security analyst, has become an outspoken critic of President Donald Trump’s administration. In August 2018, Trump was reportedly weighing the possibility of revoking Hayden’s security clearance in addition to other former White House and Justice Department senior officials who publicly criticized his policies.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Taiwan is ready to push back against China’s aggression

Tensions between the Peoples Republic of China and Taiwan have recently flared up as China held the largest show of naval force in its history in April 2018, and made new threats directed towards Taipei.

“We would like to reaffirm that we have strong determination, confidence and capability to destroy any type of ‘Taiwan independence’ scheme in order to safeguard the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Ma Xiaoguang, a spokeswoman for the State Council’s Taiwan Affairs Office, recently said.


The Chinese also flew bombers around Taiwan in a show of force as well, and though tensions decreased a bit when promised live-fire drills were scaled back, the events are a reminder to analysts and policymakers that one of the worlds oldest Cold War-era conflicts remains unsolved, and could escalate to war.

A war of nerves

Much of that has to do with Chinese President and General Secretary of the Communist Party Xi Jinping, who has taken a much more aggressive stance on Taiwan than his immediate predecessors.

“Xi Jinping has essentially linked rejuvenation of the Chinese Nation to the retaking of Taiwan,” Bonnie Glaser, the director of the China Power Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Business Insider.

“We were in a period of relative quiet with the Taiwan issue, and now it’s in a more primary place on the agenda as far as Beijing is concerned,” Glaser said.

At the core of the issue is that the Peoples Republic of China wants Taiwan, known officially as the Republic of China, to return to the fold to create one country that is unified under the rule of the Communist Party of China.

9 times the world stepped back from the brink of nuclear war
Chinese President Xi Jinping.
(Photo by Michel Temer)

But Taiwan, with the help of the US, has so far managed to resist the PRC’s attempts to isolate it politically and economically, and has even shown signs of moving further away from the PRC and towards official independence — a move that would almost certainly provoke an armed response from the mainland.

“The current situation in the Taiwan [Strait] is a war of nerves,” Ian Easton, a research fellow at the Project 2049 Institute and the author of “The Chinese Invasion Threat: Taiwan’s Defense and American Strategy in Asia,” told Business Insider in an email.

“Taiwan is winning. They have not compromised under pressure, but tensions are running high and are likely to get much worse.”

Taiwan’s military has advantages — and problems

Taiwan’s military has a few advantages if it comes to war. First and foremost, Taiwan has been training to defend the island for decades.

For a country of only 23 million people, its military is quite capable. It has an active force of around 180,000 troops, with 1.5 million reservists — putting its size on par with the militaries of Germany and Japan, despite having a much smaller population.

Some of its equipment is relatively high-end. Its air force operates around 100 US-made F-16s, and 100 indigenously made F-CK-1A/Cs. Its Army maintains a number of AH-64 Apache gunships, and AH-1W SuperCobras.

9 times the world stepped back from the brink of nuclear war
An F-16 fighter jet

Taiwan’s navy has roughly eight destroyers and 20 frigates in service, mostly former Oliver Hazard Perry-class and Knox-class ships. But they also have six French-built La Fayette-class frigates. The navy also sails a large number of fast missile boats, and two modified Zwaardvis-class attack submarines.

On top of that, Taiwan has a lot of anti-air and anti-ship defenses, and hundreds of cruise missiles that can strike mainland China.

Taiwan’s geography also provides another advantage. Crossing the Taiwan Strait would take up to 7-8 hours by sea, and during that time Taiwan could prepare for an invasion, and use its navy and air force to attack incoming Chinese ships, and set up anti-ship mines along the Strait.

The PRC also does not currently have the capability to transport the required number of troops (once estimated to be as high as 400,000) needed to take the island.

Furthermore, Taiwan is very mountainous, and does not offer a lot of landing zones where the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) could establish solid beachheads. Roughly only 10% of its shoreline is suitable for the large-scale amphibious landing that the PLA would have to make.

All of this means an invasion of Taiwan by the PRC would be extremely costly. “China has no obvious starting move that guarantees that they don’t absorb a lot of risk from this,” Scott Harold, the associate director of the RAND Corporation’s Center for Asia Pacific Policy, told Business Insider.

But Taiwan’s military has two large problems — a lack of advanced equipment, and problems with its transition from compulsory service to a fully volunteer force.

9 times the world stepped back from the brink of nuclear war
The ROC Army’s CM-11 Tank at the Hukou Army Base.

Much of the military equipment needs to be modernized, especially its tanks and ships, and this can’t be done for diplomatic reasons. Only around 20 nations officially recognize Taiwan, and the PRC puts a lot of pressure on other countries to not do business with the island, especially in terms of defense.

The only nation that is willing to sell Taiwan complete weapon systems is the US, but they have “been slow to provide the weapons that Taiwan has been requesting, especially over the past 10 years,” according to Easton.

The military is also having difficulty making hiring quotas, which is affecting overall capability and performance because they are trying to replace its largely conscript service with professional soldiers.

“China has a massive military, so Taiwan must maintain its advantage in quality,” Easton said.

An uncertain future

A war between the PRC and Taiwan would also risk involving the US, which, while not under legal obligation, has opposed to any use of force against Taiwan in the past.

9 times the world stepped back from the brink of nuclear war

It deployed carrier battle groups to the Strait in 1995 to prevent war from breaking out, and relations between the two countries remain strong. One analyst Business Insider spoke to calculated that US submarines could sink 40% of a PLA invasion force.

War between the two Chinas, then, would be catastrophic. “In short, it would be extremely complex and fraught with risk for both China and Taiwan,” Easton said, adding that “both sides would stand to lose hundreds of thousands, if not millions of lives, and the U.S. would almost certainly join the fight on Taiwan’s side.”

Such a quagmire could turn into a war of attrition, and if it were it to result in failure for the PLA, it would be devastating to the Chinese Communist Party.


“It is inextricably tied to the legitimacy of the Communist Party,” Glaser said. “I think that that is the belief in the leadership — that they can never be seen as soft on Taiwan. They cannot compromise.”

She pointed to Xi’s comments at the 19th Party Congress in October 2017; “We will resolutely uphold national sovereignty and territorial integrity and will never tolerate a repeat of the historical tragedy of a divided country,” he stated to wild applause.

“We have firm will, full confidence, and sufficient capability to defeat any form of Taiwan independence secession plot. We will never allow any person, any organization, or any political party to split any part of the Chinese territory from China at any time or in any form.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

popular

Watch this huge guided missile destroyer turn on a dime

The Arleigh Burke class of guided-missile destroyers is huge – and they are some of the most powerful ships in the world.


These 9,000-ton ships are armed with a five-inch gun, two Mk 41 vertical-launch systems (with 90 to 96 cells), two triple 324mm torpedo tubes, and a 20mm Mk 15 Phalanx Close-In Weapon System. Some even carry two MH-60R Seahawk helicopters.

9 times the world stepped back from the brink of nuclear war
USS Gonzalez at a more sedate pace. (US Navy photo)

But sometimes, the firepower ain’t the solution. Far from it, in some cases. Say the Iranians are up to their usual… antics. That is when the destroyer will need to move.

The ship can go fast – over 30 knots, thanks to her gas turbine propulsion. She also can turn – and for a ship this big, she turns on a dime.

9 times the world stepped back from the brink of nuclear war
USS Farragut (DDG 99) comes out of a high-speed turn. (US Navy photo)

Do those turns matter? You bet they can. The fast turn can help avoid one of those “fast attack craft” the Iranians use. If a torpedo is fired, the turn can also buy time once the ship’s AN/SLQ-25 Nixie goes off.

Torpedo seekers do not have a long range, so the turn at high speed can allow the ship to escape an attack.

9 times the world stepped back from the brink of nuclear war
What can happen when a torpedo hits: South Korean and American officers walk past what os left the ROK Navy corvette ROKS Cheonan (PCC 772). A non-contact homing torpedo or sea-mine exploded near the ship March 26, 2010, sinking it, resulting in the death of 46 ROK Navy sailors. (U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Jared Apollo Burgamy)

You can see the destroyer USS Gonzalez (DDG 66) make one of these high-speed turns in this video below. Making such a turn does take practice – mostly because if the gear ain’t stowed right, there is likely to be one hell of a mess. But a mess to clean up is much better than a torpedo hit.


Feature image: screen capture from YouTube

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Coast Guard deploys without pay amid shutdown

US Coast Guard cutter Bertholf left California on Jan. 20, 2019, for a months-long mission in the Pacific to support US Indo-Pacific Command, the largest of the US military’s geographic combatant commands.

Coast Guardsmen aboard the Bertholf left Alameda on the 30th day of what is now the longest government shutdown in US history. They left a few days after not getting their first paycheck since that shutdown started and without knowing when the next will come.


“We’re going to live up to the name national-security cutter. We’re going to be doing a national-security mission.” Capt. John Driscoll, the Bertholf’s commanding officer, said in a video release. “When we get underway, we’re going to be working for the United States Indo-Pacific Command combatant commander, and we’re going to be executing national-security operations throughout the Pacific.”

9 times the world stepped back from the brink of nuclear war

Capt. John Driscoll, commanding officer of the USCGC Bertholf, holds a navigational brief with his crew, July 10, 2018.

(US Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class David Weydert)

Like other US military branches, the Coast Guard has continued operations during the shutdown that began Dec. 21, 2018. Some 41,000 active-duty Coast Guard personnel and about 1,300 civilian employees are still working.

Unlike other military branches, which are part of the fully funded Defense Department, the Coast Guard is part of the Homeland Security Department, funding for which was not approved before the shutdown, which was prompted by a dispute between President Donald Trump and Congress over money Trump wants for a wall on the US-Mexico border.

Many operations related to live-saving or national security, like the Bertholf’s deployment, have continued, but other activities — routine patrols, safety boardings, issuance and renewal of licenses — have been curtailed.

The service didn’t have funds to send its latest boot-camp graduates, who graduated Jan. 18, 2019, to their new assignments.

The Coast Guard and Homeland Security officials were able to move money around to ensure personnel were paid on Dec. 31, 2018, but they are unable to repeat that maneuver, and the Jan. 15, 2019 payday passed without a check for Coast Guard personnel.

“To the best of my knowledge, this marks the first time in our nation’s history that servicemembers in a US armed force have not been paid during a lapse in government appropriations,” Coast Guard commandant Adm. Karl Schultz said in a January 15 letter to service members.

If the shutdown lasts into late January 2019, some 50,000 retired Coast Guard members and civilians will likely go unpaid.

9 times the world stepped back from the brink of nuclear war

Family and friends reunite with crew members on Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf’s flight deck after the cutter’s return to homeport in Alameda, California, from a 90-day deployment, Sept. 4, 2018.

(US Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Matthew S. Masaschi)

Base pay for the more than 14,000 junior members of the Coast Guard who make up about one-third of the active-duty force is at or just below the poverty level, three retired Coast Guard master chief petty officers wrote in a Jan. 18, 2019 op-ed. “Most of these members do not have the resources to go without pay over any extended period of time.”

Efforts to help and expressions of support for Coast Guard members and their families have sprung up all over the country.

In New London, Connecticut, home to the US Coast Guard Academy and officially designated as a Coast Guard City, residents have set up food pantries and spread information about other kinds of support. Local businesses have offered discounts, and utilities have waived late fees.

But city relies on the roughly 1,000 people in the Coast Guard’s workforce there and the 1,000 cadets in the academy.

“The longer it drags on, the harder these impacts are going to be felt,” Mayor Michael Passero told the Associated Press. “It’s going to start to drain public resources, and it’s going to start to take away from our economic base at some point.”

9 times the world stepped back from the brink of nuclear war

Coast Guard cutter Bertholf on a counterdrug patrol in the eastern Pacific Ocean, March 11, 2018.

(US Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Trees)

In Kodiak, Alaska, residents rely on the Coast Guard for economic activity and for support living and working in one of the world’s most dangerous waterways, where fishing is a major enterprise.

Locals have donated fish and game to their neighbors. Some businesses are offering discounts to Coast Guard members and families; others are giving customers i.o.u.s instead of bills, according to The New York Times.

“I think it’s important that the people in the faraway land DC understand what’s going on in a small town,” Mayor Patricia Branson told The Times. “And how people are affected by all this nonsense.”

The Coast Guard itself has been able to offer some support.

In a Jan. 18, 2019 letter, vice commandant Adm. Charles Ray said Coast Guard Mutual Assistance, an independent nonprofit charitable organization that serves the Coast Guard, had expanded limits for interest-free loans and that all active-duty and civilian employees are now eligible.

Ray also said Coast Guard child-development centers “have deferred payment and suspended collection on delinquent accounts” for civilian and military members affected by the shutdown.

9 times the world stepped back from the brink of nuclear war

Coast Guard Station Juneau crew members prior to man-overboard training in Alaska, Jan. 24, 2018.

(US Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Jon-Paul Rios)

Ray’s letter sounded a note of caution about housing, saying the Coast Guard was working with the Defense Department “to notify all privatized government housing sites that Coast Guard [basic allowance for housing] allotments will not be available until funding is restored.”

“However, the government does not have the authority to suspend or delay payments for these privatized contracts,” the letter adds. “We recommend providing the ‘letter to creditors’ available on the [Coast Guard] website to your housing manager that encourages flexibility until this situation is resolved.”

Some measures have been introduced to Congress that would ensure funding for the Coast Guard despite the shutdown, but those bills still need to pass both houses and be approved by the White House.

A week before the Bertholf left Alameda, more than 600 service members, including 168 families, gathered there for a giveaway organized by the East Bay Coast Guard Spouses Club, with everything from fresh fruit to diapers.

9 times the world stepped back from the brink of nuclear war

Petty Officer 3rd Class Blake Gwinn, a maritime-enforcement specialist aboard Coast Guard cutter Bertholf, with his son Alex after a 95-day deployment in the eastern Pacific, April 22, 2016.

(US Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Loumania Stewart)

“It’s worrisome. I have to put food in my family’s belly,” Coast Guard mechanic Kyle Turcott, who is working without pay, said at the Alameda event.

Alameda is homeport for four of the Coast Guard’s 418-foot national-security cutters, which carry a crew of about 110.

“I know it is hard for these crews to be leaving behind their dependents and spouses. It’s a thousand times more so when everyone is wondering when their next paycheck will be and how they can support” family left behind, Vice Adm. Linda Fagan, commander of the Coast Guard Pacific Area, said in the video release.

“There’s been an incredible outpouring of support for the families here in the Alameda region. The tension and the anxiety for the crew is real,” Fagan said. “We stand by to help support those families that are left behind the same way that we’re going to support the crew as they sail for the western Pacific.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

A woman is about to become a Green Beret and the military will be stronger for it

This week, historic news filtered out of North Carolina saying that a female National Guardsman will be the first woman to pass the Special Forces Qualification Course (Q-Course) and will earn the title of Green Beret. While the enlisted soldier has not passed the course yet, officials say that at this point barring a medical injury, she is practically guaranteed to graduate.


This morning, the New York Times reported that in 1980, a woman named Kate Wilder did indeed graduate the course but was told the day before graduation she was not allowed to graduate with her class, because of her gender. Ms. Wilder fought back and six months later was finally given the certificate stating she had earned the right to wear the Green Beret, but Wilder had already left the Fifth Special Forces Group and eventually transitioned to the Reserves.

9 times the world stepped back from the brink of nuclear war

Prior to now, only a few women have passed the Special Forces Assessment and Selection Course but none of them passed the year long Q-Course. The soldier is going to be an 18C or Engineer Sergeant.

According to the Army, the Special Forces Engineer Sergeant is a construction and demolitions specialist. As a builder, the engineer sergeant can create bridges, buildings and field fortifications. As a demolitions specialist, the engineer sergeant can carry out demolition raids against enemy targets, such as bridges, railroads, fuel depots and critical components of infrastructure.

The New York Times also reported a second female soldier is working through a longer Q-Course (the course length will depend on the prospective Green Berets MOS) as a 18D or Medical Sergeant.

This is no small feat. As we all know, making it into the Special Forces required many attributes including superior physical fitness, an ability to handle traversing rugged terrain, weapons proficiency and strong mental aptitude to solve problems on the fly. Green Berets deploy and execute nine doctrinal missions: unconventional warfare, foreign internal defense, direct action, counter-insurgency, special reconnaissance, counter-terrorism, information operations, counterproliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and security force assistance. Also, passing the Q-Course is one thing. The constant tempo of deployments and training while keeping up with high physical fitness standards and training can take a toll on even the most seasoned Green Berets.

There is no doubt the newly minted Green Beret will have tough challenges in her career in the Special Forces. And there will probably be resistance from a few people that struggle to accept that a woman made it through such an arduous course. (The course has been modified due to feedback from active Green Berets so it could be more compatible with deployments and retention but the standards are still the same.)

However, the potential benefits to having women as part of the Special Forces community are too great to ignore.

Retired Lt. Gen. Steve Blum, a 42-year Army veteran who spent 16 years with the Green Berets said, “I applaud and celebrate the fact because half of the world that we have to deal with when we’re out there, half of the people we have to help, are women. The days of men fighting men without the presence of women is long gone.”

When it comes to unconventional warfare, it’s safe to say pretty much every engagement we are involved with nowadays is unconventional. The role of women has expanded dramatically during the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan and women have been decorated for bravery on the battlefield.

In recent years, we have seen ISIS be thoroughly beaten when engaged by Kurdish forces comprised of women. Having a female advisor in those units would allow better access, more trust, and better control when it comes to directing forces to defeat our enemy.

9 times the world stepped back from the brink of nuclear war

The same can be said for counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism. The Green Berets were some of the first troops to go into Vietnam as advisors to the South Vietnamese who were fighting a counter-insurgency campaign against the Viet Cong. The Viet Cong and many other insurgent troops have used local females as fighters, transporters and for intelligence gathering. Having a female Green beret engage local women could potentially make counter insurgency easier.

When it comes to reconnaissance, we all know there are places that are harder to get close to because men would stick out like a sore thumb. Certain places in the Middle East and elsewhere have places where men can’t get into and having a highly trained female would be a great way to circumvent that potential issue.

William Denn, an Army Captain who served multiple combat tours said in an interview with the Washington Post that, “Most Iraqi men were reticent to speak with us for fear of retribution from al-Qaeda. Iraqi women, often fed up with the violence in their neighborhoods, could be persuaded to provide information, but first we had to bridge the gender gap, build rapport and earn their trust, all of which took valuable time.” Denn went on to write that “including women in front-line units would be more than an exercise in social equality; it would be a valuable enhancement of military effectiveness and national security.”

While we won’t know her identity anytime soon, it will be awesome to see the path she trailblazes for other women who seek to serve in the Special Forces and how it can help us earn victories in the toughest environments.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Rats, viruses and the Korean War

Rodents are always with us, in good times and bad. When the COVID-19 crippled the restaurant industry, rats came out in abundance, prompting warnings from the Centers for Disease Control. In 2015, a video of a rat carrying a slice of pizza went viral. Coffee rat, a video of a rodent carrying a cup of joe in the subway, followed a few years later. Though not as well known today, a similar abundance of rats shaped the experience of the men who served in Korean War, a war that started 70 years ago this summer.


In the Korean War, the rat problem emerged in the later stages of the conflict when lines stabilized. After a year’s worth of fighting up and down the peninsula, the U.S.-led United Nations Command fought North Korea and its Chinese allies over territory near the 38th parallel. In the fateful summer of 1951, the war transformed from one of movement into a war to take strategic positions among hills protected by bunkers and trench lines.

Rats soon filled U.S.-led United Nations Command positions. In the book Voices from the Korean War, American soldier Richard Peters remembered the rats were “both numerous and huge,” pests that “scurried about the bunker as if they owned the place.” Many in his unit tried to hunt them with their bayonets, but they were largely unsuccessful. American GI Norbert Meyer recalled that the rats were “nearly as big as cats.” Another veteran, writing for The Graybeards, the Korean War Veterans Association magazine, called living in the bunkers “a Neanderthal-like existence,” one in which rats were “daily companions.” Brian Hough, serving in the British contingent of the United Nations Command, remembered the rats filling his fortified position. One night, as he was preparing to sleep, he looked over and saw his bunker mate “fast asleep with a rat on his chest gnawing at his clothing.” Later, Hough lamented the scars he still bore from rat bites from the war. Living beside rats would be a memory few veterans of this part of the war would forget.

Rats proved dangerous to servicemen’s health. As U.S. and Allied Forces came into greater contact with the rodents, many contracted a mysterious disease that caused a viral hemorrhagic fever, kidney problems, and a host of other maladies. Approximately 10% of the 3,000 who caught the disease died from it. The outbreak initially puzzled researchers. Some thought it could be a disease carried into Korea by Chinese soldiers. Others thought it might be carried by mites on rats. The mystery of how the disease spread wasn’t solved until years after the armistice was signed. In 1976, South Korean researcher Dr. Ho Wang Lee and his team discovered the virus was spread from rat saliva, feces and urine. They named the disease the Hantaan virus, after a river near the demilitarized zone in Korea, the area of much fighting over hills and bunkers during the later stages of the Korean War.

Hantaan and its family of related viruses has never gone away. In the last 30 years there have been sporadic small outbreaks of the disease. The most recent iteration was in March 2020. In the midst of the current viral crisis, authorities reassured the public that the disease is not likely to spread due to person-to-person contact.

The COVID-19 outbreak, suspected by many to have originated from zoonotic (animal-to-person) transmission, reminds many of the ways that animals have always shaped the lives of humans. Animal–human relationships are especially important in wartime. And fewer reminders are as vivid as the history of rats and the Korean War.

Articles

13 funniest military memes for the week of March 31

It’s always a bad idea for payday to come on a Friday. Here’s hoping that everyone makes it to Monday without any recall formations because some lance corporal stole a car and crashed it into the general’s house.


In the meantime, here are 13 funny military memes:

1. You can just hear that lead fellow yelling, “To the strip clubs!”

(via Why I’m Not Re-enlisting)

9 times the world stepped back from the brink of nuclear war
That’s where they keep both alcohol and titillation.

2. Believe it or not, the DD-214 won’t solve all your problems (via Shit my LPO says).

9 times the world stepped back from the brink of nuclear war
It only solves your worst ones.

ALSO READ: 4 insane things service members can do to stay awake

3. Sounds like the E-4 Mafia is going to let you have a little taste of what they took (via Military World).

9 times the world stepped back from the brink of nuclear war

4. Airmen getting after it (via Military Memes).

9 times the world stepped back from the brink of nuclear war
Carrying over seven pounds of pillows and firing a .5mm laser. Air Power!

5. When the commander suddenly remembers that he doesn’t want you promoted:

(via Marine Corps Memes)

9 times the world stepped back from the brink of nuclear war

6. “Alright new officers and privates, here are your compasses and maps …”

(via Lost in the Sauce)

9 times the world stepped back from the brink of nuclear war

7. Anyone that doe-eyed is unlikely to want to hear your war stories (via Pop smoke).

9 times the world stepped back from the brink of nuclear war

8. Some things can’t be treated with ibuprofen (via Decelerate Your Life).

9 times the world stepped back from the brink of nuclear war
Bet the corpsman give each other real medicine.

9. The true secret to the military:

(via Decelerate Your Life)

9 times the world stepped back from the brink of nuclear war
E-4 is E-4 is E-4.

10. Knees in the breeze, Donald (via Do You Even Jump?).

9 times the world stepped back from the brink of nuclear war
Not sure how you lower your combat load when it’s rigged that way, though. Maybe have a jumpmaster check that out.

11. This is Sgt. Rex, and you will stand at parade rest for him (via Air Force Nation).

9 times the world stepped back from the brink of nuclear war
The man behind the flag is Carl. Feel free to kick him.

12. Today is a special day for the Corps. Give them some Crayolas or something (via Air Force amn/nco/snco).

9 times the world stepped back from the brink of nuclear war
No one has earned their crayons like the United States Marines have.

13. How new NCOs feel about everyone in their squad (via Air Force amn/nco/snco).

9 times the world stepped back from the brink of nuclear war
No one is standing at parade rest for the guy they were partying with the night before the promotion ceremony.

MIGHTY HISTORY

What British civilians did for special operators after ‘Desert One’ will tear you up

“To you all from us all for having the guts to try.”

These were the words written on the cases of beer waiting for American special operations troops in Oman on Apr. 25, 1980. They were gifted to the U.S. service members by British civilians working at the airfield.


The British didn’t know for sure who the American troops were, but what they did know came from news reports in Iran and the United States that a group of Army Delta Force troops, United States Marines, and Air Force aircrews flew out of their base to an unknown destination and returned many hours later.

British airfield operators also knew that not everyone had come back.

By the time President Jimmy Carter gave Operation Eagle Claw the green light, hostages being held at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran had been held for 174 days. The operational ground force commander was also the legendary founder of Delta Force, Col. Charlie Beckwith – and no one was more eager to get going.

A documentary from Filmmaker Barbara Koppel, “Desert One,” explores the leadup and fallout of Operation Eagle Claw, the U.S. military’s failed attempt to rescue the hostages. It also details every angle of the event from people who were on the ground, with interviews from those who were there.

The interviewees include veteran member of the Eagle Claw mission and their families, Iranians who were holding Americans hostage at the embassy, a handful of the hostages, an Iranian who was part of a group of locals who came upon the landing site in the middle of the night, and even remarks from President Carter and Vice-President Walter Mondale.

Carter, dedicated to achieving the release of the hostages through diplomatic means, still charged Beckwith with creating a hostage rescue plan. Carter exhausted every channel before giving Beckwith the go-ahead, but Beckwith was ready.

The plan was an incredibly complex one, and with so many moving parts, many felt then that it had little chance for success – a statement even many of the Deltas agreed with.

Coming into a remorse desert location near Tehran, called “Desert One” 3 U.S. Air Force C-130s would deliver 93 Delta force operators destined for the Embassy, 13 Special Forces troops to retrieve hostages from the foreign affairs ministry building, a U.S. Army ranger team, and a handful of Farsi-speaking truck drivers. “Desert One” would be the staging area for the planes and refueling bladders, guarded by an airfield protection team.

Eight RH-53D Sea Stallion helicopters from the USS Nimitz would be dispatched to Desert One to refuel and take soldiers to another desert site, “Desert Two” where they would hide until nightfall. CIA operatives would take trucks to Desert Two and drive soldiers to Tehran. There, the rangers would capture an abandoned air base outside of the city as a landing place for two C-141 Starlifter aircraft.

During the assault, the helicopters would fly from Desert Two to a soccer stadium near the embassy in Tehran to kill the guards, pick up the hostages, and fly them to the Starlifters. The helicopters would be destroyed on the ground, and everyone would fly aboard the C-141s to Egypt.

The rescue mission never made it past Desert One. A number of unforeseen incidents, including Iranian citizens, an intense dust storm, and mechanical failures contributed to the failure of Eagle Claw. After a tragic accident at the airfield claimed eight lives and the mission lost the minimum number of helicopters needed, Carter ordered them to abort.

To this day, Carter accepts responsibility for the failure of the mission, as he did on Apr. 25, 1980, making a televised address to the American people.

“I ordered this rescue mission prepared in order to safeguard American lives, to protect America’s national interests, and to reduce the tensions in the world that have been caused among many nations as this crisis has continued,” the President said. “It was my decision to attempt the rescue operation. It was my decision to cancel it when problems developed in the placement of our rescue team for a future rescue operation. The responsibility is fully my own.”

When looking back on his time as President, whenever Carter is asked what he would do differently in his administration, his answer is always the same:

“I would send one more helicopter.”

When the Americans returned to Oman and the British civilians realized who they were and from where they’d just come, they rounded up any beer they could and left the now-famous note.

 

MIGHTY TRENDING

Some veterans went balls out and made a ‘Jurassic Park’ fan film

The craziest thing we could do for this franchise was to fly people and equipment to Hawaii and try to tell a story that has all the elements people love about Jurassic Park but from a tactical military perspective,” producer and Army veteran Gregory Wong told We Are The Mighty.

It was crazy — and somehow he pulled it off.

Wong brought members of the military, firearms, and Jurassic community together to execute his vision: an epic fan film for one of the most iconic franchises of all time.

Hold on to your butts.


9 times the world stepped back from the brink of nuclear war
Whatever it takes to get the shot.

 

“We had so many partners on this project and every one of them helped with different aspects of the film. Paradise Park welcomed us in to their home for two days in the most authentic ‘Jurassic Jungle’ any filmmaker could dream of,” said Wong.

The cast and crew had 5 days to get every shot they needed on the island. Like any indie filmmakers could attest, it meant a brutal schedule. Dogs of War helped with three locations and active duty service members stationed on the island helped transport cast and crew — and jumped in for stunts and background work.

9 times the world stepped back from the brink of nuclear war
Back at base camp, Travis Haley conducts tactical training.

 

Force Reconnaissance Marine Travis Haley, along with his company, Haley Strategic, was involved with development of prototype gear and equipment just for the film. Haley brought his Spec Ops background and weapons expertise to the film, and he got to learn first-hand how challenging it can be to navigate the military-Hollywood divide.

His knowledge brought authenticity to the film that’s often difficult for filmmakers to get right. Military operations might not always look dynamic on film, but Haley was up to the challenge of portraying realistic tactics while telling an entertaining story.

9 times the world stepped back from the brink of nuclear war
Cast members pose with two Jurassic Park jeeps provided by Sidney Okamoto and Jacob Mast.

 

The cast and crew were predominantly veterans, including U.S. Marines Travis Haley, Sean Jennings, and Robert Bruce; U.S. Army vets Byron Leisek and Greg Wong himself; U.S. Navy Corpsman Nic Cornett — who directed the project; and U.S. Air Force vets Mike Jones and (We Are The Mighty’s own) Shannon Corbeil.

Many had never acted on-camera before. Jones, AKA Garand Thumb, has a thriving social media channel and enthusiastic fan base of his own, but traditional film-making was a new adventure for him.

9 times the world stepped back from the brink of nuclear war
Shannon Corbeil and Mike Jones talk about Air Force things. Probably.

 

“The filming schedule was rough but the people made it worthwhile. Most of us did this on our own dime and I hope the audience sees the passion we had for bringing this vision to life,” reflected Jones.

Baret Fawbush, a pastor and fundamental shooting instructor, was another social media influencer new to a narrative film set, but he was more than prepared to lend his expertise to the film, personally demonstrating the “manual of arms” for each cast member with a weapon.

9 times the world stepped back from the brink of nuclear war
Professional actors, like Jamie Costa (who is no stranger to fantastic fan films) and Barrett James, heightened the quality of the film with their talent, while also diligently training with their weapons and tactics.
9 times the world stepped back from the brink of nuclear war
U.S. Marine Robert Bruce conducts location scouting on Oahu.

 

Many, many brands came together to help Wong bring the film to the screen. A few of the major ones included Evike, JKarmy, PTS, Krytac, GP, and GG, who donated replica prop firearms and uniforms for the production. Ballahack Outdoor helped outfit the film’s leads with tip-of-the-spear footwear. There’s even a raptor puppet involved, created by Marco Cavassa, a prop builder for the film industry.

The film was primarily shot on a Sony A7Sii by Nero Manalo and VFX artists Kerr Robinson and Joe losczack crafted some very impressive weapon and dinosaur effects.

The obvious way to head to Costa Rica.

“I think a lot of people will appreciate the attention to detail and production value. Never before has a Jurassic fan film been so ambitious and daring. The making of such a project was a wild ride which we hope to embark on again soon,” said Wong.

Congratulations, Greg, you did it. You crazy son of a bitch, you did it.

Check out the film right here:

MIGHTY MOVIES

‘First Man’ director wants to show the sacrifices that military families made as astronauts braved the unknown

Three months ago, Navy SEAL and NASA Astronaut Chris Cassidy slogged through the dirt roads of Normandy with a 44lbs rucksack on his back. Captain Cassidy and several dozen other SEALs (myself included) had just swam 11 miles through the English channel to commemorate the pre-D-Day mission of the first Naval Commandos. The 11-mile swim / 25-mile ruck run on the 74th anniversary of D-Day had a purpose: to raise money for fallen SEALs and their families.

It was an act of service for those who had died in service.


Cassidy, who earned a Bronze Star in Afghanistan, sweated out this epic charity challenge in the middle of training for another kind of walk — one that will take place at 17,000 miles per hour, 400 kilometers above the earth’s surface. If all goes well, Cassidy will return to space and conduct a spacewalk to make repairs on the International Space Station. But, in the midst of endless days of preparation and training, he took time to honor his military roots — a heritage he shares with a long line of astronauts before him. Captain Chris Cassidy said,

It’s truly been an honor to have a role in our nation’s manned space program. We have had astronauts and cosmonauts living continuously on the International Space Station for the last 18 years which has only been possible because of the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs. That history is also deeply intertwined with the military. Personally, I love how in both our nation’s space program and military, laser focus on mission success is balanced with detailed planning and operational rick controls. It’s also an amazing feeling to be among such motivated and talented people.

That heritage is one of the centerpieces of the new blockbuster film, First Man, featuring Ryan Gosling starring as NASA Astronaut Neil Armstrong. People know Armstrong as the man who walked on the moon; they often don’t know that Armstrong was a decorated Navy fighter pilot and Korean War veteran.

9 times the world stepped back from the brink of nuclear war

Neil Armstrong in 1964, while in training to be an astronaut.

(NASA)

The film is largely focused on Armstrong’s life and the mission to get to the moon — but it explores a theme familiar to military audiences: the challenge of maintaining a family while deploying to do dangerous work. The film depicts Armstrong’s family and their sacrifice, particularly that of Armstrong’s wife, Janet. And it shows scenes that any military family has faced: how to speak to your children about the danger of the mission; the enormous stress before the deployment; the uncertainty while your loved one is far away. All of this is shown with raw and real emotion.

What was true then and is true now is that service member families often bear a heavy and overlooked burden during times of conflict. While First Man is primarily a movie about the first moon walk, it’s important to remember that that mission, and the space program in general, was the byproduct of a conflict: the Cold War and the tension between the USSR and the US. The frontlines of the early space race were the frontiers of space, and its foot soldiers were military test pilots who strapped themselves to rockets and ventured into the stratosphere in service of their country.

9 times the world stepped back from the brink of nuclear war

Apollo 11 astronauts with families, 1969

(Ralph Morse for LIFE)

I had an opportunity to speak with Academy Award-winning director Damien Chazelle (the director behind the smash-hit films La La Land and Whiplash) and ask him about these themes of the connection between military service and the space program:

1. Tell us a bit about the inspiration behind ‘First Man’

After I made Whiplash, I was approached by producers Wyck Godfrey, Isaac Klausner, and Marty Bowen about the idea of doing a movie on Neil Armstrong. I didn’t know much about space travel and didn’t know what my angle would be. But I started reading Jim Hansen’s incredible book, First Man, and started to think of Neil’s story as a story about the cost of great achievement — similar to what I had looked at in Whiplash, only on a much bigger canvas.

What was the toll that the mission to the moon took? I was awed by the sacrifice, the patriotism, the ambition, and the vision that made the impossible possible — and the reminder that it was human beings who did it, ordinary people thrust into extraordinary circumstances and overcoming daunting odds — and even great tragedy — to accomplish something for the ages.

9 times the world stepped back from the brink of nuclear war

The crewmen of the Apollo 11 lunar landing mission leave the Kennedy Space Center’s (KSC) Manned Spacecraft Operations Building (MSOB) during the prelaunch countdown. Astronauts Neil A. Armstrong, commander; Michael Collins, command module pilot; and Edwin E. Aldrin Jr., lunar module pilot, ride the special transport van over to Launch Complex 39A where their spacecraft awaited them. Liftoff was at 9:32 a.m.

(NASA)

2. What’s woven through the movie are themes of duty and sacrifice. And as a Navy veteran myself, I could identify not just with the astronauts (especially Neil, Navy pilot), but with their families and what they went through. Can you talk a bit about those themes and how they affected your work on this?

The family aspect was paramount — showing these famous events through the eyes of not just Neil, but his wife Janet and his sons, Rick and Mark. How did they all cope with the demands of the job? Funerals were a normal part of life. Two of Neil’s closest friends died while he was in the program. Neil himself almost died several times. And yet, balanced with the danger and the risk, he and Janet also had to take out the trash, clean the pool, make breakfast for their kids. That combination of the intimate and the epic, and the selfless way Neil and Janet confronted all of it, was extraordinary to me.

But I also think it’s worth remembering, as you note, that Neil had been in the Navy. He was someone who believed deeply in service for country. He risked his life in the Korean War. He became a test pilot to forward our understanding of aeronautics, to contribute to knowledge. He went to space to keep seeking those answers. This is someone who was not acting in his own self-interest, who was not seeking fame or fortune. This is a man who believed, in all aspects of his life, that his duty to the mission came first, and without that willingness to risk it all and to sacrifice it all I don’t believe the moon landing ever would have happened.

3. Can you talk a bit about Janet Armstrong and her role?

Ryan and I were lucky enough to meet with Janet and spend time with her. She was an incredible woman, and the stories she told us and memories she shared with us were invaluable. Like Neil, Janet was tough — she had a grit to her that I think made her uniquely qualified for her role in the space program. It’s worth remembering that astronaut wives like Janet played an enormous part in the overall endeavor of going to the moon: they were the ones to had to find the balance between space and home, between the demands of their husbands’ work with the lives of their kids and the necessities of home. They had to do it all while putting on a smile for the cameras — even when they couldn’t know for sure if their husbands would ever return from space. One of my greatest joys in making this movie was in watching Claire Foy embody Janet’s spirit and resilience and pay tribute to such an amazing person.

9 times the world stepped back from the brink of nuclear war

The Apollo 11 crewmen, still under a 21-day quarantine, are greeted by their wives, Janet Armstrong, Patricia Collins, and Joan Aldrin.

(NASA)

4. There’s a scene in the film where Neil Armstrong is talking to his boys about what’s about to happen — the mission and the risks. Can you give us a sense of what you were thinking with that scene and what you wanted to convey?

That’s a scene that many families across the country have their own version of: the mom or dad about to go off to work, and the knowledge that he or she may not come back. It again speaks to a willingness to sacrifice in the name of service that I find awe-inspiring. In this movie’s case, the scene at the dinner table between Neil and Janet and their boys Rick and Mark was almost word-for-word what actually happened. Janet insisted to Neil he talk to his kids and explain to them what he was doing and what the risks were; much of the scene was taken verbatim from Rick and Mark Armstrong’s recollections. It was a tremendously important scene for all of us — a moment where the characters have to come to a stop and confront the dangers of what they are doing, and what it all means.

5. The military and the space program have a long joint history. At the simplest, a lot of veterans became astronauts. The SEAL community, which I’m a part of, for example is proud of the fact that there are two astronauts currently in training who are SEALs. Did that joint history play into your research at all, or the end product?

It did, in several ways. First, I liked to think of the film as almost a war movie. The moon mission was initially a product of the Cold War, and the astronauts who risked their lives for their country were all former or current servicemen. The dangers were almost combat-like, too — this was not the glossy, glamorous, sleek-and-easy space travel I grew up seeing in movies. These capsules were like old tanks and submarines; the rockets carrying them out of the atmosphere were essentially converted missiles. The dangers were front and center — and, with them, the immense bravery required to face them.

9 times the world stepped back from the brink of nuclear war

This photograph of astronaut Neil A. Armstrong, Apollo 11 commander, was taken inside the Lunar Module (LM) while the LM rested on the lunar surface.

(NASA)

6. The film’s story and title come from James Hansen’s biography of Neil Armstrong, but I was curious: Did you have any other creative influences that helped you make this — books, films, etc?

Yes, many! As I alluded to, certain war movies were big inspirations: Saving Private Ryan, Paths of Glory, The Deer Hunter. Movies about submarines like Das Boot. I also read as many books on the subject matter as I could — one of my favorites was “Carrying the Fire” by Mike Collins, who flew with Neil on Apollo 11. “Deke!” by Deke Slayton and “Failure Is Not An Option” by Gene Kranz were also key. And, finally, documentaries! The archival material shot by NASA, much of which is compiled in incredible films like For All Mankind and Moonwalk One. Documentaries of the period like Salesman and Hospital and Gimme Shelter. An amazing documentary by Frederick Wiseman, about training at Vandenberg Air Force Base, called Missile. All of these taught and inspired me.

First Man, starring Ryan Gosling, arrives in theaters October 12, 2018.

Kaj Larsen is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared on CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, VICE, Huffington Post, and numerous other outlets. He also served as a US Navy SEAL earning the rank of Lieutenant Commander and completing multiple deployments in the Global War on Terrorism. His family member, Judith Resnick, was the second American woman in space and was killed on launch during the 1986 Challenger space shuttle explosion.

MIGHTY MOVIES

These discoveries will break your ‘Jurassic Park’-loving heart

If your image of Tyrannosaurus rex is based on the ferocious creature in “Jurassic Park,” you’ve gotten quite a few things wrong about the “king of the dinosaurs.”

In recent years, paleontologists have been revising the scientific consensus about how T. rex looked, sounded, and ate.

“Everyone’s preconceived ideas of what T. rex acted like and looked like are going to be heavily modified,” Mark Norell, a curator at the American Museum of Natural History, told Business Insider. The museum just opened an exhibit devoted to the dino, called “T. rex: The Ultimate Predator.”


The exhibit showcases the latest research on the prehistoric animal. And as it turns out, these predators started their lives as fuzzy, turkey-sized hatchlings. They also had excellent vision, with forward-facing eyes like a hawk for superior depth perception. And T. rexes couldn’t run — instead, they walked at impressive speeds of up to 25 mph.

But to be fair to Steven Spielberg, only seven or eight T. rex skeletons existed in the fossil record when his classic movie was produced in 1993. Since then, a dozen more skeletons have been discovered, and those bones have changed scientists’ understanding of the creatures.

Here’s what the T. rex was really like when it hunted 66 million years ago, according to the experts at the AMNH.

9 times the world stepped back from the brink of nuclear war

Henry Osborn, Fred Saunders, and Barnum Brown on the AMNH scow Mary Jane, 1911.

1. The first T. rex skeleton was discovered in 1902 by Barnum Brown, a paleontologist with the AMNH.

Today, the institution boasts one of the few original T. rex skeletons on display.

Tyrannosaurus rex — from the Greek words for “tyrant” and “lizard” and the Latin word for “king” — lived between 68 million and 66 million years ago, during the late Cretaceous period (just before the asteroid impact that ended the era of the dinosaurs).

2. The T. rex rocked a mullet of feathers on its head and neck, and some on its tail too.

Feathers are rarely preserved in the fossil record, so they haven’t been found on a T. rex specimen. But other dinosaur fossils, including other tyrannosaur species and their relatives, do have preserved feathers.

That means paleontologists can “safely assume” T. rex had feathers as well, Norell said.

Though adult T. rexes were mostly covered in scales, scientists think they had patches of feathers on attention-getting areas like the head and tail.

3. T. rex hatchlings looked more like fluffy turkeys than terrifying predators.

T. rex hatchlings were covered in peach fuzz, much like a duckling. As they aged, they lost most of their feathers, keeping just the ones on the head, neck, and tail.

Most hatchlings didn’t survive past infancy. A baby T. rex had a more than 60% chance of succumbing to predators, disease, accidents, or starvation during its first year of life.

4. T. rex had a fairly short lifespan by human standards. No known T. rex lived past the age of 30.

The T. rex was like “the James Dean of the dinosaurs,” said Gregory Erickson, a paleontologist from Florida State University who consulted on the museum’s new exhibit.

The Hollywood actor, often connected to the famous quote “Live fast, die young, and leave a good-looking corpse,” died in a fiery car crash at the age of 24. T. rexes, similarly, were spectacular but died quite young.

Paleontologists can estimate the age that a dinosaur was when it died by analyzing its fossilized bones, which have growth rings that correspond to its age, much like trees. Experts can count the number of rings to determine its age, as well as compare the spaces between rings to find out how fast the dinosaur was growing at different ages.

5. A T. rex grew from a tiny hatchling to a 9-ton predator in about 18 to 20 years, gaining an unbelievable 1,700 pounds per year.

A full-grown Tyrannosaurus rex weighed about 6 to 9 tons. It stood about 12 to 13 feet tall at the hip and was about 40 to 43 feet long.

6. The “king of the dinosaurs” evolved from a larger group of tyrannosaurs that were smaller and faster.


While the T. rex emerged about 68 million years ago, its tyrannosaur ancestors were 100 million years older than that.

The tyrannosauroidea superfamily consists of two dozen species spanning more than 100 million years of evolution.

7. That evolutionary lineage might explain why T. rex had tiny arms.

For earlier tyrannosaur relatives with smaller bodies, these tiny arms were long enough to grasp prey or pull food into their mouth.

“The earliest tyrannosaur species had arms that were perfectly proportioned,” Erickson said.

He said he thinks T. rex’s puny arms were vestigial — a body part or organ that no longer serves a function but is nevertheless retained (kind of like a human’s appendix or wisdom teeth).

8. An adult T. rex didn’t need its arms to hunt — its massive jaws, filled with sharp teeth that constantly grew back, were enough.

“T. rex was a head hunter,” Norell said. The predator had the rare ability to bite through solid bone and digest it.

Paleontologists know this from the dinosaur’s fossilized poop; they’ve discovered T. rex feces containing tiny chunks of bone eroded by stomach acid.

9. The force of a T. rex bite was stronger than that of any other animal.

T. rex had a bite force of 7,800 pounds, equivalent to the crushing weight of about three Mini Cooper cars. By comparison, the massive saltwater crocodile of northern Australia — which grows to 17 feet and can weigh more than a ton — chomps down with 3,700 pounds of force.

No other known animal could bite with such force, according to museum paleontologists.

10. T. rex was also a cannibal.

Scientists are pretty sure that T. rex ate members of its own species, but they don’t know whether the dinosaurs killed one another or just ate ones that were already dead.

Arguments about whether the dinosaur was a hunter or a scavenger have raged over the years, but “a bulk of the evidence points to T. rex being a predator, not a scavenger,” Erickson said. “It was a hunter, day in and day out.”

What Did a Baby T. rex Look Like? ? Find out in T. rex: The Ultimate Predator (Now Open!)

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11. The predator had a keen sense of smell, acute vision, and excellent hearing, making it hard for prey to avoid detection.

When “Jurassic Park” came out in 1993, scientists knew only that the T. rex was big and carnivorous and had a small brain, Erickson said.

But now paleontologists know that the dinosaur had some of the largest eyes of any land animal ever.

About the size of oranges, T. rex eyes faced forward like a hawk’s and were spread farther apart on its face than most other dinosaurs’ eyes, giving it superior depth perception during a hunt.

12. One of the biggest differences between the museum’s depiction of T. rex and the images in popular culture is that the real animal appears to be much svelter.

The new model shows a T. rex with even smaller forelimbs than previous ones and more prominent hind limbs.

According to museum paleontologists, an adult T. rex walked with fairly straight legs, much like an elephant. Walking with bent legs would have placed immense stress on its bones and joints, quickly exhausting its leg muscles.

13. So unlike the creature in “Jurassic Park,” the real T. rex couldn’t run. It just walked quickly.

An adult T. rex had a long stride, helping it reach speeds of 10 to 25 mph. But the dinosaur never reached a suspended gait, since it always had at least one leg on the ground at all times.

Juvenile T. rexes, which weighed less than an adult, could run.

14. There are still a few lingering mysteries about T. rex, including what color it was.

In movies and illustrations, the animal is often depicted in drab colors, similar to those of a crocodile. But the new museum exhibit suggests that, since reptiles come in every color, the T. rex could have been brightly colored.

It’s also challenging for experts to determine the sex of the T. rex skeletons they dig up, leaving questions about differences between males and females unanswered as well.

15. Scientists aren’t sure what T. rex sounded like, but the best guesses are based on the dinosaur’s closest living relatives: crocodiles and birds.

A 2016 study suggested that T. rex probably didn’t roar, but most likely cooed, hooted, and made deep-throated booming sounds like the modern-day emu.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

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